Rita Trehan: Traditional employee engagement strategies will soon lead nowhere

Rita Trehan

Organisations across the globe who pay lip service to employment strategies speak of keeping employees engaged. Although maintaining staff motivation is essential in keeping any business competitive, a report by Steelcase, Engagement and the global workplace, published in May 2016, reveals that only one in three employees feel engaged with their work. Does this mean that employee engagement strategies are failing?

It is understandable why organisations facing flagging productivity and performance conduct employee engagement surveys. However, constantly monitoring the activities of employees like lab specimens and bluntly asking them if they enjoy their work encourages them to appease senior management. This outdated assessment technique does not give them the opportunity to discuss their concerns openly, and prevents a true assessment of employee morale across an entire organisation. With a new generation of millennials who thrive on praise, engagement surveys could now drive employees out the door.

Employee engagement strategies need to be discarded in favour of culture assessments. These help employers to understand what truly motivates their employees; what frustrates or engages them; and to develop a sense of an organisation’s central values. Yet there also needs to be a shift in workplace culture so employees can realise their true potential.

Employers need to embrace workplace cultures that nurture creativity and give employees the opportunity to express themselves freely. Offering rich feedback on their performance in an environment that inspires them to perform can increase the competitiveness of any business.

Thinking in terms of workplace cultures also gives employers a more holistic view of the state of their organisation. It allows a greater understanding of where talent lies and where potential issues could occur. For example, identifying if employees are able to cooperate effectively, especially across departments, is a great and innovative indication of employee morale and the health of a business.

Traditional engagement strategies are outdated and will soon lead nowhere. We need a deeper understanding of workplace cultures to understand what drives employees, and we need to embrace this now.

Rita Trehan is former director of HR at Honeywell International and AES Corporation, and a global expert on workplace culture